The Public Employee Unions Fiddle While the Poor and the Needy Starve

Who runs Oregon’s government? The public employees unions. What is the first priority of government? To protect the financial well being of the public employees unions and their members.

That point has been made repeatedly by Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s administration over the past six years but never so pointedly as in his recent discussion of his proposed budget. Kulongoski noted that there would be significant reductions in the health and human services BUT the promised “step increase” for members of the public employees unions would be preserved. (As a reminder, the “step increase” is the annual increase that public employee union members get for just showing up for a year — it is in addition to any wage or cost of living increase).

It’s not like the public employees unions or their members are suffering. The state and local governments write checks to the public employee unions totaling about $60 million each biennium through the payroll deduction program to ensure that there is plenty of money for the unions to spend to elect and re-elect the politicians who run these various levels of government. It is estimated that the public employees unions spent approximately $16 million in the last general election and that does not take into account its internal mailings, “political education” programs, or armies of volunteers for Democrat candidates and liberal causes. First, there were the outlandish payroll increases for Democrat appointees in Kulongoski’s administration (several of whom are former public employee union officials) and the public employee unions. The average increase for executives in the state government was 33% (every state executive office is controlled by Democrats). (In a recent magnanimous gesture Kulongoski rescinded a 3.2% pay raise for agency directors which represents the cost of living adjustment portion of the massive 33% increase noted above.

The average increase for the public employee union members is to be 13-16% (this comes on the heels of two successive raises in the last year — one negotiated and one a gift from Kulongoski). And those raises do not include the handsome and corresponding increases in the cost of healthcare and retirement benefits for those state workers.

It is bad enough that these raises are three to four times higher than corresponding wage increases in the private sector — for those who still have jobs. But we now know that these raises are coming at the expense of those least able to mitigate their effects — the poor, the aged, the chronically ill, the handicapped and the mentally ill. The effects of the reductions in the health and human services areas are reductions in the direct payments to beneficiaries and private agencies providing the care for the beneficiaries while preserving the scheduled salary and benefits increases due to the public employees in those same agencies.

The most stunning part of all of this is that Kulongoski is bold as brass about it. He publicly admits that these cuts to beneficiaries are deeper in order to preserve salary and benefit increases to public employees.

But then what would you expect from an administration dominated by former public employee union officials and a governor who is wholly beholden to those same public employee unions for his election. It will get a lot worse before it gets better — if it ever gets better.

Oregon needs to change its motto from “We Love Dreamers” to “We R Here for U(nion).

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Posted by at 06:00 | Posted in Measure 37 | 20 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Jerry

    Oregon will never change until the people wake up. Right to work status would help as would changes in how dues are collected. No one really cares is my take – otherwise this insane madness would not continue. State “workers” have it made!

  • Harry

    Competition is the answer.

    To have choice, especially in education, would expose the public teachers and other staff to market realities that the private sector are also exposed to. And it would make them more efficient.

    And we should shrink the number of Union jobs. In a word, Privatize. Do we really need public employee school bus drivers making $20 per hour, plus benefits, which bring the wage to over $25/hr?

    • eagle eye

      Dream on, Harry — after all, Oregon is for dreamers. But vouchers got creamed here 2-1 back when that initiative was tried. Just like happened in California, twice. It’s not going to happen. Or as Obama would say, it ain’t gonna happen.

    • dean

      Where I live the school bus drivers are all contract and I’m not sure how much they make. But Harry, what do you have against people earning a living wage? If people are all working at Wallmart wages, then who is left to buy stuff and keep the consumer economy humming along? And if you begrudge people their benefits, such as health insurance and an IRA contribution or pension, then are you suggesting the federal government pick up the tab through Medicare? Or that people just go without?

      • cc

        “But Harry, what do you have against people earning a living wage?”

        Harry probably DOESN’T have anything against people making a “living wage”, whatever that is, if private enterprise pays it. In fact Harry probably doesn’t have anything “against” the people who make the elusive “living wage” from government. either. Harry probably just doesn’t think the $25/hr bus driver wage is justified – don’t you see the difference, deaner?

        Of course you do, but you will have your little games, won’t you.

        “If people are all working at Wallmart wages, then who is left to buy stuff and keep the consumer economy humming along?”

        What’s Wallmart and who (except you, of course) said anything about people “all working for Wallmart wages?

        Another either-or fallacy from the joker.

        “And if you begrudge people their benefits, such as health insurance and an IRA contribution or pension, then are you suggesting the federal government pick up the tab through Medicare? Or that people just go without?”

        Ah, the grand finale – Harry hates people, doesn’t want them to have “their” benefits, and is too stupid to see that he’ll have to pay anyway.

        Another brilliant victory for dean! This guy never loses!

        As long as he puts words in others’ mouths, imputes their motivations to suit his “argument” and suspends the rules of logic.

        What a novel concept!

        • dean

          The questions were to Harry. Are you representing him?

          • Harry

            Actually, cc did in fact represent me quite accurately.
            And I believe that he exposed you for what & who you are quite well, don’t you think?


            Poor dean, he is so dumb, he never tires of coming here and getting his head handed to him. But at least dean is smart enough to spout his liberal nonsense under just “dean”, rather than David Appell.

        • Harry

          I am Harry and I endorse this comment. And thanks, cc, whoever you are. I had to run out on business and was not able to monitor this discussion. And for the record, I am not anti-union. But if I can find a way to run the school district more efficiently, then I think it is worth exploring.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    Well, I think the point is perhaps the state of Oregon has reached critical mass. If you have a government with only a few members, it is very hard for them to fleece the population. Once those both employed by and retired from government reach a certain population density it is difficult to override their wishes. I think we may be at that point. Government spending is growing at full throttle and clearly there are enough with a vested interest it will be hard to turn that back. Given that the union thugs successfully defeated measure 64 there is little reason to expect things to change. The government employees in this state run a pretty tight operation and do very well for themselves as a result. Its really no different than the brilliant bank robber or clever con artists. Sure we the populace are the ones being stolen from, but one has to admire the ingenuity and success of the kleptocratic class that is Oregon government.

  • Reper

    The critical mass may be just a few months away.

    • Hilo

      weeks away…

  • Gienie

    I thought taxation without representation was bad… taxation WITH represenation is worse!

  • Anonymous

    They aren’t representing anybody but themselves. Isn’t it wonderful though, the people really believed the lies about the evil republicans. They got it. But as long as the people believe the lies and don’t think for themselves, it won’t change.

    I for one am passing on everything I see to Oregonians I know. It’s a piece of cake to pass on the page to everyone you know.

  • Poor Boomer

    Poor Boomer’s First Law of Politics:

    Whenever the interests of the poor are opposed by any other organized group, the poor almost invariably lose.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    Spending on poverty programs since inception of 1964 War on Poverty – $5.1 Trillion. (Heritage Foundation)

    Spending on poverty growth after adjusting for inflation since beginning of War on Poverty – Up almost seven fold. (Heritage Foundation)

    Tax freedom day? When those who row the boat finally get done paying for those who ride in it? Steady growth upwards until 2000, with a drop in ’03 and now back up ( Taxfoundation ).

    Looks to me like the poor’s interests are being looked after quite well thank you.

    • dean

      In 2007 about 9% of the total budget went to “safety net” programs for poor people according to OMB. That is about $250 billion, or 1/3 of what we are presently handing over to Wall Street.

      If you count SSI and Medicare as going “to the poor” you can add 42%, but fact is most of that money is not going to poor people. Its going to geezers, some of whom would be poor without it, some of whom would be just fine. And when our turn comes to be 65, we get at least some of what we paid back, so to speak. 22% is for defense and homeland security. 18% is for the rest of the stuff government does, like take care of national parks, forests, highway funding, veterans, science and medical research, diplomacy, and so forth. 9% goes to pay the debt bequeathed to us by the past 3 Republican presidents, about half that attributed to Bush 2, even before the new pile he just added on his way out the door.

  • Ellen Sopa

    I agree that it’s ridiculous how much money the unions are able to collect & spend on politics. I would like to see this stopped so that unions can no longer spend money supporting the democratic party or political candidates. I’m a republican & hate seeing all this misuse which is one of the reasons I voted to not allow unions to use the dues taken as payroll deductions for political purposes in our recent election. That measure was winning until someone “found” some more votes in opposition to the proposal. I bet the unions or their supporters were behind the new votes against the measure & I question whether those votes were legitimate.

    I am one of those state workers who apparently should forfeit all pay increases to compensate for the government’s misspending according to this article. I am lucky to have a secure job right now & I do appreciate that. I also appreciate the annual step increases, which for most pay ranges are about 3-5% (not 13-16%). Management (who are not union members!) were the ones who got 11-15% pay raises from Governor Ted, after the union accepted the contract for its members.

    FYI: Those who have had the same position for 9 years or longer (& there are a lot of them) never get a pay raise unless the union gets us a COLA raise.

    I hate paying so much to a union who misspends & uses the funds for their political causes, but I’d rather be a member & have a say since I’m stuck with it if I want to work for the state. I wish the union wouldn’t protect those who are not worth what they get paid as I would like to see people held accountable for doing their job. With my degree & background I could have a private sector job that pays a lot more, but I think what I do is important & I like being able to work only 40 hours (private jobs often require more hours even though they pay better). I take my work ethic seriously as I realize I am being paid by my fellow Oregonians to do a good job & I do work hard at my job. I know others don’t but please don’t put us all in the same boat & think we’re all overpaid slackers. That’s just some extra info & another point of view for folks to consider. Thank you.

  • Pat Ryan

    *I would like to see this stopped so that unions can no longer spend money supporting the democratic party or political candidates.*

    Of course you would Ellen, just as I would like to see *millionaire populists* like Wendt, Parks, and Adelson prohibited from dumping millions into *their own private Oregon*. but as long as *money is speech* and *corporations are persons*, and other total unconstitutional crap pushed by corporatists on this site and elsewhere, we are likely to see the whole mess stay the same.

    • Ellen Sopa

      The difference is those people are choosing to spend their own money in on lobbying. I am required to pay union dues to keep my job & those dues go to political interests that I do not want to support. If they only went to operating the union I would be much happier & they’d need less dues.
      If other union members choose to contribute an extra amount for the union to spend on it’s lobbying interests that is their choice & I’m okay with that if union workers are doing that on their own time & not on state time. In my opinion required dues should not be used for lobbying, but they are.

  • Poor Boomer

    Rupert in Springfield said:

    “Spending on poverty programs since inception of 1964 War on Poverty – $5.1 Trillion. (Heritage Foundation)”

    How is “spending on poverty programs” defined? A large part of “poverty program” spending doesn’t reach the poor, and much of it harms the poor.

    For example, the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program provides grants to local governments for “community development” projects ostensibly for the benefit of “low and moderate income” (below 50 percent and below 80 percent of metro median income, respectively) households.

    But the CDBG local spending decisions are made not by low and moderate income residents, but by the typically upper middle class policymakers of the community.

    As a result, a large proportion of CDBG funds are used to benefit middle and uppwe middle class residents.

    In one place I’ve lived, CDBG funds were used for street maintenance (repavving etc) in certain neighborhoods. Since money is fungible, this had the effect of freeing up an equivalent amount of cash for the town’s general budget, which is the usual source of street maintenance funds.

    In the same town, a large proportion of CDBG funds were used to provide, in targeted neighborhoods, homebuyer down payment grants and (forgiven after five years) loans/ While I lived there, a half dozen homebuyers took advantage of this program(. Unfortunately, the low and moderate residents of the community did not have enough income to buy homes, and all of the program’s new homebuyers moved in from elsewhere.

    Nobody expected locals would be able to buy the homes; the purpose was to promote higher property values, which of course not only fails to help local low and moderate income renters, but actually harms them through rent increases and displacement.

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